NBC going against current

Network folds unit in executive realignment

NBC is taking another step toward shaking up the traditional TV business model by realigning its executive structure and eliminating its current series department.

Parts of the restructuring plans — orchestrated by NBC programming chief Ben Silverman —are still in flux, but it is understood that current series operations would be folded into the drama and comedy departments headed by senior vps Katie O'Connell and Jeff Ingold, respectively.

NBC's head of current programming, executive vp Erin Gough Wehrenberg, is expected to go to NBC Uni's Universal Media Studios. There, she would serve as No. 2 to UMS president Katherine Pope, with whom she has worked closely for the past nine years, and would oversee current programming as well as comedy development.

Such a move would mark Gough Wehrenberg's return to the comedy development arena. From 2002-04, she was vp comedy development at NBC and helped to get the UMS-produced "The Office" off the ground.

It is not clear what Gough Wehrenberg's arrival at the studio would mean for UMS senior vp comedy programming Vernon Sanders, who took over the comedy department in June. Reps for NBC and UMS declined comment on the restructuring Sunday.

In his keynote speech at NATPE last month, NBC Universal topper Jeff Zucker made it clear that NBC is committed to changing the way it does business, including ordering more projects straight to series and scaling back the number of pilots to five or six a year. Last year, NBC made 18 pilots, 16 traditional and two lower-cost comedy alternatives. So far this season, NBC has ordered four shows straight to series, including comedy "Kath & Kim" last week (HR 2/6).

Under the traditional business model employed by the broadcast networks, projects are shepherded by the drama and comedy development executives through the pilot stage, sometimes a little longer, and then the shows are passed on to the current programming team.

With NBC making fewer pilots and picking up more scripts straight to series under Zucker's new plan, it would make sense for the comedy and drama departments to also oversee current series.

Similar organization already is in place at other NBC Uni TV units.

UMS' comedy and drama programming departments oversee both development and current series (that could change now that Gough Wehrenberg is going there). USA Network, like most cable networks, also has development and current handled by the same team.

Overall, NBC has been the most adventurous lately when it comes to its management structure.

Three years ago, under then-entertainment president Kevin Reilly, the network took a step in the opposite direction to the current consolidation by splitting the comedy and drama development departments into two separate teams — one working on projects from the in-house studio and another shepherding outside projects. That model was scrapped 10 months later.